HB 3384: New mandate on schools would be costly, onerous and legally perilous

Our public schools already shoulder a great deal of responsibility. They are expected not only to teach our children reading, writing and arithmetic, but also, in many cases, to help make sure that they are adequately fed and nourished, to help them cope with disabilities, to instill in them core values of good citizenship, and to help those who come from afar integrate into our community. But should our schools also have the responsibility to serve as arms of the immigration enforcement authorities?

That, in practice, is what a bill introduced this legislative session by Representative Randy Terrill would force our schools to become. HB 3384, under the guise of collecting data on the population of students who are not lawfully present in the United States, would require the presentation by parents “for inspection to a designated school official at the school in which the child is enrolled of official documentation establishing the citizenship or immigration status of the child.”  Each school district would be required to make a determination of the student’s legal status and then compile and report this information to the State Department of Education.

At the very least, the bill raises some serious constitutional questions.  HB 3384 does not expressly challenge the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe (1982) that primary and secondary school students living in the United States cannot be denied a public education on the basis of their immigration status. But the requirement to submit documents that would allow schools to determine the citizenship and immigration status of every student can be expected to create  considerable fear and confusion among undocumented and other non-citizen students, deterring many from enrolling and attending public schools. Creating such obstacles to exercising a constitutional right could well violate the Equal Protection rights of these students under the Constitution.

Moreover, the bill would put schools in the position of having to determine the immigration and citizenship students of students. It is not only that such tasks are outside of and contrary to the core mission of public schools. But in a whole range of cases, determining the immigration status of a child can be extremely murky and complicated. That is why only federal immigration courts have the authority to make immigration status determinations. Delegating this authority to local public school officials raises serious constitutional due process concerns, and provides schools with powers they should not have and do not want.

As Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard has stated, complying with the requirements of HB 3384 to determine, compile, and report the citizenship and legal status of every student”  would be a huge undertaking and detract from our mission, which is to teach kids.”  Schools would need to create new protocols and regulations, conduct extensive training, and spend countless hours pursuing forms from those who fail to present the proper documents for inspection.  At a time of budget shortfalls and cutbacks, it would divert scarce resources away from the core mission of providing children with a quality education and furthering their well-being. For children of immigrants and their families, it would increase fear and unease, and risk breaking the essential relationship of trust and safety between schools, students and families. Could such costs possibly be outweighed by any value to the state of possessing additional,and ultimately unreliable,  data on the number of undocumented children attending school in Oklahoma?

In an otherwise fine op-ed in the Tulsa World, Mike Jones predicts that HB 3384 “will probably sail through the Legislature”.  Jones may be overly resigned to the bill’s outcome. In the House, a handful of Republicans joined a majority of Democrats in voting ‘no’. The bill may face an even tougher time in the Senate, where a razor-thin Republican majority may not be keen to take up this divisive proposal. Let’s hope the upper chamber gives this misguided proposal the quiet and unmourned death it deserves.

Update: HB 3384 died when it was not heard in the Senate. Rep. Terrill has indicated he would try to revive the bill’s language in another legislative vehicle.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

4 thoughts on “HB 3384: New mandate on schools would be costly, onerous and legally perilous

  1. HB 3384 has the potential to save out state millions of dollars. This data should be collected and those in question, names should be turned over to ICE at Homeland Security for investigation and if deemed to be illegal aliens deported at the earliest possible date.

  2. Well I really disagree there are many students who want to better themselves and they come here because unfortunately in their countries they can’t. I think that everyone deserves an oppotunity to better themselves. HB 3384 goes against everything Americans belive in to me its unconstitutional. It still wouldn’t save the state millions of dollars because frankly some of the illegals pay there taxes. As a tax payer I would rather pay taxes and help the students who really want to study and become someone better in life and those who are in favor of HB 3384 have really forgotten the U.S. History because in a way we are all illegals except the Indians.

  3. According to the Oklahoma State constitution, it is un-constitutional to deny children (any children) basic education.

    HB3384 is similar to the terror tactics of the Nazi Party which used popular anti-semitism to “investigate” Jews. They blamed poverty, unemployment, lost tax revenue, low wages, etc., on the Jews. Rep. Terrill is using the same tactics by blaming Latinos.

    A Nazi Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed, banning Jews from government jobs. It is notable that the proponents of this law, and the several thousand more laws that were to follow, most frequently explained them as necessary to prevent the infiltration of damaging, “alien-type” traits into the German national or racial community.

    Rep. Terrill and his cronies would love to prevent the infiltration of damaging “illegal-alien-types” from our state.

    The fact is, illegal or not, people live here in Oklahoma pay rent or a mortgage. Either way, state and local property taxes are being paid by the landlords and property owners of the houses and apartments they live in. Those taxes go to pay the teachers to teach the kids! No kids, no teachers will be needed. So kick the illegals out… there goes the teaching jobs, laid off, un-employment.

    Lets be honest, we need federal immigration reform. We need a better way for people to come into the country legally. In the spirit of honesty, people here without documentation are paying their way. To say they are not is simply not true. And for state representatives like Randy Terrill to continue promoting his hate agenda that’s the crime here. Who do you think rebuilt Moore after the tornado! And this is how he says thanks.

    Leave the children out of it. They are the innocents here. Stop the Nazi-type terror tactics!

  4. I work at the department of Human Services we were already verifying citizenship before the passage of HB1804, then it was mandated that we do this on every child receiving medicaid, since there is no extra personnel allocated to this, there are stacks of birth certificates piling up that we do not have time to input.so the kids medicaid is closed, we dig through a stack find the birth certificate and open the medicaid, it is a cyclical waste of time, just so some bigots can feel powerful and stroke themselves. oddly enough there are many American citizens who cannot verify tbeir citizenship. The illegals are not “taking your jobs” they work harder than you, they have raised the bar, with all the possibilities available to Americans if you are so unmotivated that your are competing with undocumented aliens for unskilled jobs, quit whining step up and work as hard as they do. Hunger and hope are not crimes and hatred is not patriotism.

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